By Craig Sandok [email protected]
Editor’s Note: This idea is so fantastic that we’re working with the author to get much greater detail on starting your own Whiskey Night Club and how Inebriati can make it easier for you do to so. In Part 2, we’ll go into the finer details of planning, resources, and items you’ll need to start such a club and make it a success.
Fact: I like whiskey (especially scotch).
Unfortunate fact: I have finite resources.
The result is that I can’t try every whiskey on the shelf and still pay my mortgage.
I’d like to say that the foregoing statements were the reason for the creation of Scotch/Whiskey Night in Minneapolis over a decade ago. The event actually grew organically, but if you want to create a similar event in your town, it makes for a great way to taste a lot of excellent drams.
The first scotch night started with just me and one other guy and a couple of bottles of relatively good scotch (Johnnie Walker Blue, Walker Swing and a Lagavulin, as I recall). We sat down to share our scotches and wondered whether other friends might also have an interest in scotch. Emails went out, another friend signed on to be a “founder” and the three of us put on semi-regular events for the Minneapolis community. Here were the rules:
- Guys only
- Bring a bottle of nice scotch (the event has now been opened to all nice whiskeys as bourbon and rye has gained in popularity).
- Put the bottle on the table when you arrive.
- While there, you can sample from anything on the table. Help yourself.
- At the end of the night – you can take your bottle home with you or you can leave it and it will be sealed in a bin and transported to the next scotch night.
- Don’t drive drunk.
That’s it. We sent out emails to our ever-growing list of guys with a location (initially it was at someone’s house, but it grew to the point where we started having it at local condo party rooms and rented rooms). For nearly a decade, we also sent out a list of the bottles in the “stash” that were being transported to the event. We were hopeful that attendees would go out and buy a bottle that wasn’t on the list. That started to get problematic as we had over 120 bottles in our travelling stash and over 100 attendees at the event (each bearing a bottle).
With over 200 scotches to sample, things got interesting.
Guys were free to try drams that they would not have purchased without sampling. Palates were expanded. Preferences were shaped.
People also got competitive. Guys got together to buy more expensive and more exotic whiskeys. Suddenly we had elite 25-year varieties of scotch arriving. Not to be outdone, one of our “members” built a pot still and tried to distill his own “scotch” from peated malt imported from Scotland. (It was interesting and he got an A for effort, but the distillers in Scotland had nothing to worry about).
This event attracted a lot of novice whiskey drinkers. That was great. Unfortunately, they felt obligated to come with a bottle. Not knowing an Ardbeg from their arse, they showed up with the cheapest bottle that comes in a box (that’s Tomatin, by the way). We had bottles of the stuff. Cases of it. No one touched it. If you are going to recreate an event like this, it’s best to tell rookies to come once or twice and see what they like before requiring them to bring a bottle. Rarely does the rookie bring something that the group likes (we found that Tomatin at any vintage – even up to the 25 year – was pretty foul and sat for years only to be transported and re-transported to the next scotch night).
This event could (and should) be duplicated in other venues. What’s stopping you from setting one up in your town?
EPILOGUE: The other two “founders” and I eventually got old. That’s a nice way of saying that we all have young kids and could not longer plan, promote and host these events. We recently handed the event off to a young mover-and-shaker in Minneapolis and he has rebranded the event “Whiskey Night” and has required that all attendees get together and pool money and bring bottles valued no less than $100. He has also tried new things. In fact, as I write this, I am preparing to head to tonight’s Whiskey Night which is co-ed optional. I don’t know if that will last, but my wife is excited to go (she likes fine whiskey, too).
Read more in Part 2